20+ Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

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Looking for fun things to do in Charlotte, NC? Here’s a list of just a few of the fun things in the Charlotte area. Don’t forget to let us know your favorite things to do in the comments!

Here’s just some of the fun that awaits you in the Queen City! Be sure to check back as we add more first-hand accounts of adventures we have in the Charlotte area. 

Charlotte, NC Things to Do

This article includes:
Things to Do for the Family Near Charlotte, NC
Things to Do in Gastonia, NC
Things to Do in Cabarrus County, NC
Charlotte, NC Seasonal Fun
Things to Do in York County, SC
Places to Eat Near Charlotte, NC

Things to Do in Charlotte, North Carolina

Carowinds Amusement Park
Purchase online tickets in advance seasonally.
Find out what makes this park a favorite of Upstate’s families, including how your younger children can get in for free!  

US National White Water Center
Purchase online activity passes in advance for 30+ recreational activities

If you are looking for a place full of outdoor adventure, this is it. The center offers white water activities and provides visitors with the opportunity to rock climb, hike, mountain bike, zipline, and much more. 

Readers shared their love for the US National White Water Center on Facebook with us recently when we asked if they had been. 

Several times and loved it! The rafting is a short loop, but it’s intense depending on where the raft guide decides to go. The zip line is the best I’ve ever been on. There are events for smaller children too, like rock climbing. It’s well worth the trip.

Tina M.

Yes! Have season passes. Great for kids 6 & up, plus families. As an adult that is not crazy about being outdoors I love the white water rafting and flat water kayaking. Plenty to do for a whole day’s visit!

Virginia W.W.

Many times and we’ve done it all! Mountain biking to zip line to rafting and even experienced their live music series, River Jam…. enough to spend a full day there with the fam (10yo+)

Nikki W.

Discovery Place Science Center 
Purchase advance time reserved tickets online year-round
This large kid-friendly science museum in the heart of downtown Charlotte is a great way to spend a rainy day with your family. The museum offers exhibits with live animals, STEM topics, an Imax theatre, and more. 

The Rooftop Pool At The Omni Hotel 
Reserve your day pass online through the Coin Bar 
Do you want to live like a high-end traveler, sunning yourself next to a rooftop pool, but sleep in your own bed at night? The Omni hotel offers visitors to the Queen City day passes to use this large pool deck that overlooks the city.
Adult passes start at $30 (21+ only)

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve
This is an amazing nature center and preserve about 6 miles northwest of downtown Charlotte, which is located inside of the larger Reedy Creek Park. The park includes a playground, a science center, hiking trails, and more. 

Carolina Raptor Center
Purchase advance tickets online year-round
This rehabilitation and education center is home to falcons, hawks, owls, eagles and vultures from all over the world. Guests will have the chance to learn about and meet these magnificent birds up close.

Raptor Center

Things to Do in Gastonia, North Carolina

Plan an entire day in Gastonia, NC with our guide to the area. 

Schiele Museum of Natural History
Purchase online tickets in advance year-round
This museum makes a great day trip. We had a lot of fun visiting the museum and enjoyed exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, animals, critters, nature, and so much more! If you haven’t been yet, you should add it to your museum bucket list.

Things to do in Cabarus County, North Carolina

Plan an entire day in Concord, NC with our guide to the area

Great Wolf Lodge – Concord
An easy drive from the Upstate, Great Wolf Lodge is a great one-stop destination for families, and your stay includes an indoor waterpark that’s nice and warm even in the winter. The activities provided at the Lodge mean that no extra planning has to be done to make this a fun-filled trip. 

iFLY in Concord
iFLY is an indoor skydiving simulator where you enter a wind tunnel that is strong enough to allow you to float in the air. 

Seasonal Fun in The Charlotte, NC Area 

Don’t miss these annual events and things to do happening seasonally in the Charlotte, NC area.

Christmas Town USA – McAdenville, NC
This tiny town of just under 700 people takes the Christmas season very seriously. It all started with nine trees being decorated by the Men’s Club. The following year they did a few more, and that continued every year. By 2004 nearly 400 trees were decorated, and the town residents all decided to join in the fun. The joint effort resulted in almost half a million lights adorning the 1.3 mile stretch of road that visitors see as they pass through the town.

Christmas Lights at The Charlotte Motor Speedway
Purchase advance tickets online
Speedway Christmas is unique in that you get to drive your own car on the racetrack that is normally driven on by professional NASCAR drivers.  Unfortunately your mini-van will be going at a snail’s pace, but it’s still pretty cool in my opinion. On the 3.75 mile drive-thru course visitors get to view displays consisting of over four million lights!  

Charlotte Motor Speedway Lights

The Quarry at Carrigan Farms
Purchase online tickets in advance for Open Swim all summer
Looking for a unique place to cool off this summer? The Quarry at Carrigan Farms in Mooresville, NC, might be just the place. The quarry at Carrigan Farms offers guests a full day of water activities, including several rock jump-off points, rope swings, swimming areas, and a sand beach volleyball area. Slots book up quickly, and planning is recommended. 

Carolina Renaissance Festival
Purchase advance tickets online for October 1st – November 20th, 2022
Fans of a time long forgotten can weave their way through huge roasted “turkey legs”, unique handcrafted item vendors, mermaids, fairies, sword jugglers, falconry demonstrations, and a jousting tournament. Your child can even be knighted by Queen Isabella while you are there!

York County, SC: Fun Just Across The Border from Charlotte in South Carolina 

Charlotte is so close to the state border that several popular attractions straddle both states. For example, did you know that Carowinds is in both North Carolina and South Carolina? In addition, visitors to the area often zip back and forth across state lines, so we decided to include some of our favorite things in the Charlotte area, across the state line in South Carolina. 

Plan an entire day in York County, SC with our guide to the area.

Kings Mountain State Park 
The Kings Mountain State Park and the Kings Mountain National Military Park are right next to each other and visible from I85.  You will cross into North Carolina and then back into South Carolina to get to the park, that’s how close this historical state park is to Charlotte. 

The Sunflowers of Draper Wildlife Area
If you are looking for a magical place to take family photos or just a place to visit for fresh air and a change of scenery, we found a place just south of Rock Hill that won’t cost you a dime to enjoy. The Sunflower Fields of Draper Wildlife Area are only in bloom for few weeks over the summer, but if you plan correctly you can see them in full bloom in July.

Kings Mountain Battlefield

Anne Springs Close Greenway
The Greenway is a 2,100 nature preserve that is a continuation of the Springs’ family tradition of providing recreation options to the workers of the Springmaid Brand Mill workers. The park is a little more than a third of the land that the Springs family purchased from the Catawba Indians. The preserve includes hiking trails, lakes, creeks, wildflower gardens, and so many other things for your family to enjoy. 

Places To Eat In The Charlotte Area 

Finding a spot to eat in the big city can be daunting, but luckily there’s good food to be found with a little bit of guidance. 

Looking for kids’ meal deals? Visit our list of restaurants in Charlotte, NC where kids eat free (or cheap).

Food Halls 

I love places where you can go and everyone can decide what they want, and it can be varied. My kids can usually only agree to disagree and this makes mealtime easier. 

Optimist Hall
A food hall in a converted warehouse that offers a kaleidoscope of options for hungry families.

  • AVA – authentic Italian and wood fired pizza
  • Bao & Broth – Bao buns and ramen bowls
  • Billy Sunday – award-winning cocktails and elevated bar menu
  • Botiwalla – Indian street food
  • Boxcar Betty’s – Fried chicken sandwiches
  • The Dumpling Lady – Szechuan street food
  • El Thrifty – Mexican inspired menu 
  • Felix Empanadas 
  • Harriett’s Hamburgers 
  • Honeysuckle Gelato
  • Mezeh Mediterranean Grill – a unique twist on the “mezze” dining experience
  • Noble Smoke – Southern barbecue
  • Papi Queso – grilled cheese kitchen
  • Suarez Bakery & Barra – Donuts and Cuban food
  • Undercurrent Coffee – coffee, tea, and light fare
  • Velvet Taco – funky tacos
  • Village Juice Co. – organic raw juice and clean food
  • Xiao Bao – Southeast Asian favorites
  • Zukku – rice bowls, sushi, burritos, poke

Camp Northend 

This multi-use venue is a 100-year-old Ford Model-T factory that now houses art exhibits, food vendors, and more. 

  • Babe & Butcher – charcuterie boxes and boards
  • La Caseta – the pocket size version of Sabor Latin Street food that we also have in Greenville
  • PopBar CLT – a handcrafted gelato pop vendor
  • Leah & Louise – (reservations recommended) Elevated deep south menu 
  • Plus vendors that serve burgers, plant based menu items, cocktails, coffee and more! 

Savory

I like to eat like the locals do when I travel, and in Charlotte that means soul food, BBQ and Fried Chicken dishes. 

Sweet

Save room for dessert, because there are too many delicious spots to skip if you don’t! 

About the Author
Melanie is a native New Yorker, who landed in the Upstate by way of Florida. She is the mom of two awesome kids, and the three of them love going on adventures!

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